COVID-19 Update: Making Good Use of Loaner Cars

By Desiree Homer

Dealers nationwide are looking for ways to connect with their customers, despite the current mitigation strategies in place. One automaker is providing financial assistance to its retailers in the form of reimbursements for loaner car use. Chances are, many loaners are sitting idle, and there are some great examples of how other dealers are putting the loaner fleets to good use. Supporting the community and first responders is paramount during these challenging times.

Volkswagen Group Offering Assistance for Fleet Use

Volkswagen Group announced recently that it would back its retailers who offered loaner cars in a community response-driven effort. Any U.S. dealers for the automaker, who provide loaners for delivery of supplies, or in response to COVID-related relief, will receive financial assistance. VW said the dealers would not be charged for using the loaner fleets, upon verified request. The network of more than 600 dealers, means there are potentially 7,000 loaner cars idling on the lots. The only guidelines VW enforces is that only dealership employees will be allowed to drive the loaners. VW corporate will then provide dealers a stipend per loaner, to help with lease and fuel costs during use. Many dealers are keeping their staff working and behind the wheel of these loaners, to deliver food to area shelters, as well as gowns and masks to medical facilities. Others are helping those individuals who are currently confined to their homes, unable to venture out for groceries and supplies.

Island Auto Group Offering Loaners to First Responders

Marcello Sciarrino is the owner of Island Auto Group in New York. This dealer group is comprised of 14 dealerships across Staten Island and wanted to look for a way to give back. With over 50 cars available in the company’s loaner fleet, Sciarrino started offering the use of those vehicles to first responders in the area. Many first responders, including medical staff and even 911 operators, formerly relied on subway service for transportation. Having a vehicle not only reinforces a safer mode of transport, but Sciarrino learned, there was a high demand for such a service. There is no charge to use any of the Island Auto Group’s vehicles. Those in the line of duty during the pandemic would only be responsible for their own gas and tolls.

Pickup & Delivery Services

For those dealers who are still able to operate, whether they’re allowed to sell or are restricted to the service side of the house, the loaner fleets have become invaluable. Many are offering pickup and delivery services for customers who need maintenance for their vehicles. Those still selling are using their loaners to deliver new vehicles or lease renewals, directly to the buyers. The loaners are serving as quick transport efforts for staff, driving back and forth to customers’ homes. Retailers are engaging thorough sanitizing efforts between trips and customers, but finding these fleets are still vital in operations.

If your dealership or group is unable to engage in sales right now, sign the petition and tune into the recent podcast with Cars.com CEO, Alex Vetter. Dave Cantin talks with Alex Vetter about leading the charge for ‘essential’ business approvals for dealerships nationwide.